Monday, August 14, 2006

Of Cults and Strangers

Today was the first day of school for both Hannah and Hazel, and tonight was the first parent meeting. Ostensibly for all parents, it's really intended for the newbies, to make sure they have heard all of the guidelines and quirks of our little school. I like to go for the social aspects, to hear anything new, and just as a refresher. It's easy to see why some consider Montessori a cult, though, listening with an outsider's ears:

~~ shoes with laces only
~~ inside shoes - slippers - to keep in the classroom
~~ drop your child off at the curb (to a waiting teacher), share a warm and succinct farewell with your child, and drive away - keep it crisp, don't linger
~~ lunch should consist of a whole grain, protein, veg & fruit, all in re-usable containers, no plastic bags, no packaged foods, no sweet baked goods
~~ the children write in lowercase cursive, but read in print
~~ the guide will write your child's name on his/her lunch box, storage box, and inside shoes
~~ this is how you hold a writing utensil
~~ The teacher is a Guide and is addressed by her given name
~~ She gives presentations to the children, when she introduces them to new work
~~ The children work in the classroom

I love our school, and I love the grace and respect with which our children are treated. Their classroom is really their empire, and they are sovereign therein. Even these meetings, which could easily become preachy, are not - they are sweet and idealistic and also cognizant of the fact that we can't always achieve that to which we aspire.

The end of this meeting was derailed, however, by a concerned parent, who asked about "Stranger Danger," and the wisdom of writing our children's names on their lunchboxes. Some of the parents were eager to offer their opinion, some shook their heads, puzzled, and others, like me, shrugged our shoulders.

I simply can't consider and plan for all the perils of this world. Since the moment of conception, I've fully understood that saying that once you have a child, your heart becomes external to your body. Nonetheless, I can't and won't spend my days in anxiety over the what-ifs. Sure, I have brief, horrifying flashes of terror when I can't reach a person who is caring for my child - even if that person is my husband - but they are fleeting, and infrequent. And I'll admit to having (unwisely, in my opinion) used the threat of "bad people" to deter Hannah from wandering away from us in the mall, when she was younger, we were less experienced (and we went to the mall more often).

Now, I have to trust to the fates, and to my children. I don't comment negatively when they won't speak to people whom they don't know, and who speak to them. Neither do I encourage them to make polite small talk with adults who are not close friends or family. Meaning - my children can be very reserved, and I try not to pressure them to be otherwise. I do teach them not to go anywhere with a person who is not family or close friends, and I do hope they trust their instincts.

Beyond that - what? Some of you have older children - how have you addressed this? Some have younger children, or children the same age - have you thought about this yet, or dealt with it? If you don't (or don't yet) have a child, what are your thoughts?


Andrew said...

We do everything we can to keep our kids safe, but you're right - you can't ever eliminate 100% of the danger, so we need to do the best we can and live with smiles on our faces.
To Love, Honor and Dismay

H.S. Lewis said...

Statistically speaking the danger comes from someone you/they know and not from a stranger. It is our own fears and ideals that keeps us looking for the unknown rather than the known. We idolize those around us and demonize those we never see.

urban-urchin said...

You're doing the right thing not making them talk to people they don't want to. How screwed up is it when we tell kids- DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS! and then chide them for not saying hello to the nice lady in line at the grocery store? Talk about confusing.

I am having a tiny heart attack, in that school is starting soon and my child isn't registered- nor does she have a place to live at the moment.... I'm going to fix myself a drink.